Remembrances of Times Past
Donnie Moorin died on Monday, February 20, 2012. He was 79 years old. Donnie, his younger sister Carole, and their parents lived two houses away from my family on Charles Street in Bridgeport, CT. Carole and I have been close friends since babyhood.
Donnie’s death shattered the peace of our Florida vacation — my husband Ed and I were on Longboat Key at the time — and instantly pushed memories of my past to the fore. They flashed by unordered, the past mixed with the present.
Memories. We forget. We combine. Or we elaborate upon them. Some bring a smile. Some tears.
For instance, my memories of Charles Street, right or wrong, include the following. They bring a smile.
- My kitchen windows and Carole’s bedroom windows faced each other across two backyards, the views unobstructed, and like Mrs. Goldberg of early TV fame, we shouted to each other out of our respective windows until some adult hollered, “Stop it, you kids!”
- Carole and I, during a crazed period of early adolescence, shaved our arms and eyebrows together in the privacy of her bathroom (Don’t ask why.).
- She and I tumbled down the concrete stairs of her house holding tight to one another and have argued about whose fault it was ever since.
- We smoked our first cigarettes together in my bathroom, standing close to the wide open window and working hard to wave the telltale smell outside.
- And, last but far from least, Donnie wouldn’t let me walk on their sidewalk. My big brother Stan retaliated by forbidding Carole to walk on ours. Just retribution!
Additional snippets of memories, those dog-eared corners of my life, surfaced for me with a vengeance in the funeral chapel that Tuesday in Boca Raton. Unaware for the moment of my surroundings one thought intruded on another. I came to attention, however, when I heard friends in the midst of their eulogies call him Don or Donald. To me he was always Donnie. I wanted to stand up and cry out, “No, not Don. Not Donald. But Donnie. His name was Donnie!”
Back home two days later, still locked into the memories of my past, I turned to some old photos. One black and white in particular stood out. I don’t know who snapped the picture but five little kids stood facing forward and had been clearly commanded to look at the camera: Donnie, Stan, Carole, Sue, and Boopsie, the son of the Moorins’ upstairs landlord.
We were on a grassy field at an overnight Jewish Community Center camp in CT. It was visiting day. Did Boopsie go to camp? I don’t remember. But I’m sure Carole will remind me. She has a memory far better than mine. She doesn’t forget, combine, or elaborate. In fact, I am taking a big chance in writing about the old days because she will correct all my errors, and there will be many. I can handle it. After all, these are my memories, and they’ve settled unalterably into place, mangled or not.
The 3” x 5” camp photo makes us look curiously squat. And very young. The memory of that day so long ago somehow eludes me. I look at the photo often but it is just a photo. Were we really ever that small? A slow smile spreads across my face as my mind’s eye tries to imagine the five of us restlessly waiting for the end of the photo shoot.
Another photo is one of my mother standing in front of our apartment house and holding me, the baby of the Bresler family, in her arms. She died when I was nine years old leaving me without most memories of those early years. I often look at that photo as well.
It is a special black and white, and without fail, it brings tears to my eyes for the mother I missed in life and blocked from my mind. Although I do have many, I need no photos for those loved ones who are now gone but whose memories I have retained clearly: my twenty-six year old brother and best friend, my dad who brought us up with the help of my grandmother, and most painful of all, my girls, Valerie at nine and Stacy at thirty-seven. All are gone. The tears drip down uncontrollably.
See what Donnie’s death has wrought? And it surprises me that all the deaths before Donnie’s fall helter skelter from my heart, rising up so quickly in such vivid color, creating such emotions.
Yet, with the passing of the years, the sadness that often creeps upon me is just as often short-circuited by reminders of humorous past episodes. That part of my past becomes what I call the in-between times: the good memories when life was lived with a big grin and a great bounce. Those are the sustaining moments when I forget the sorrow and remember to grin.
And I discover, again and again, there can be laughter among the tears.
With that in mind, I remember Donnie as I last saw him about nine months ago at his niece’s Bat Mitzvah. He looked wonderful. We all joked and reminisced about the old days, and we hugged and kissed. Now that’s an in-between time, and a memory to store away forever!
So, Donnie my friend, although many stories are lost over the years, one certainly remains and carries with it a smile along with this generous offer: you can always walk on my sidewalk.
Suzann B. Goldstein lives with her husband Ed in the Watchung Mountains of New Jersey. Sue is co-founder of THE VALERIE FUND, has her Master of Arts degree in sociology, with a sub-specialty in medical sociology, from Rutgers University, is a published author and poet, and has just recently completed her memoir, UNEXPECTED LIVES.
Editor: Edwin C. Goldstein